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COVID-19: A test of FX trading continuity

COVID-19 disruption and record levels of market volatility provide a serious test of FX trading continuity plans. A Refinitiv survey of more than 400 clients has provided some insight into how FX market participants are coping with the ongoing disruption, and gives us an indication of the state of FX Global Code compliance.


  1. FX trading continuity plans are being challenged by market volatility as well as COVID-19 disruption, with record volumes on Refinitiv’s FX platforms.
  2. A survey of FX clients reveals that most prefer staff to work from home or from locations already identified and tested for business continuity.
  3. The FX Global Code calls for market participants to be prepared for all scenarios of disruption, with other areas of focus including contingency plans for data storage.

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The impact of COVID-19 on lifestyles, travel, healthcare and other segments has required an unprecedented response from governments and businesses alike. The pandemic has also meant huge pressure on the readiness and effectiveness of FX trading continuity plans.

Over the last few weeks, we have worked with our colleagues and customers to ensure a robust mechanism to support business, including those in the global FX trading community.

All this comes alongside significant market volatility, with record volumes on our own FX trading platforms. Spot matching, for example, recently crossed over US$100 billion in a single day, reflecting the need of markets to move swiftly in such volatile conditions.

To find out more about the industry response, we conducted a survey of our Refinitiv FX global trading community to understand the impact of COVID-19 and market uncertainty and how well prepared multiple organizations are with their FX trading continuity plans.

Location for FX trading continuity

From the survey of more than 400 clients globally, the preference from the majority was to focus on providing their employees with the flexibility and support to work from home.

The overwhelming majority of our clients said their preference was for their staff to either work from home or from business continuity plan (BCP) locations already identified and tested.

This is a pattern that is uniform across the AMERS and EMEA regions.

The stand out sector was banking and brokerage, where the preference is still to have staff split their working time between home and at office/separate BCP locations.

The breakdown in EMEA, for example, is as high as nearly 80 percent of bank employees who are looking to have their time split between BCP locations/office and working from home:

This highlights the still somewhat dominant dependency of sell-side staff on trading desks and trading floors in order to ensure connectivity, compliance and efficiency of execution that is needed to perform their order-taking and execution roles.

It also gives us a good indication that perhaps the buy-side and corporates currently do not consider BCP locations or disaster recovery centers to be critical for the continuation of their business operations.

FX technological readiness

The FX Global Code of Conduct calls for the industry to have business continuity plans in place that are appropriate to the nature, scale, and complexity of their FX business.

The good news is that the majority of the respondents from our survey are confident in their BCP systems and on the tests they have conducted. This is highly encouraging, and reflects well on the overall readiness of our industry and its resilience in face of any market disruptions.

Equally, with the greater preference of working from home, it comes as no surprise that the preferred method of ensuring network security is via the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).

This provides a secure, compliant, and quick-to-implement path to ensuring that employees are working without direct impact or loss of ‘secure connection’.

Compliance with FX Global Code

As mentioned, the FX Global Code calls for market participants to be prepared for any scenario of disruption.

“Market participants should have business continuity plans in place that are appropriate to the nature, scale, and complexity of their FX business and that can be implemented quickly and effectively in the event of large-scale disasters, loss of access to significant trading platforms, settlement, or other critical services, or other market disruptions.”
Principle 33, FX Global Code

The code further provides multiple key areas of focus, including contingency for data storage and utility, identification of external dependencies, and a location strategy to tackle disruptions at the primary sites.

What our survey has indicated, and something the industry should note with some pride, is the level of overall readiness and effectiveness of strategy already in place across the global FX community.

This is no small feat and displays the rigor and detailed deliberations the industry has placed in ensuring continuity in the face of major disruptions.

Given that circumstances are evolving and COVID-19 continues to have a major impact on healthcare and businesses, hearing from 400+ of our clients that the majority have a stable business continuity plan in place, is greatly reassuring.

Refinitiv continuity of service

Similarly, at Refinitiv we are committed to ensuring FX trading continuity for our products.

We appreciate how critical our systems and services are to you, which is why we are closely monitoring the situation and taking the steps we need to stay resilient and keep you trading.

We have also invested strongly in our business continuity and resilience measures. We have control measures in place, including business critical-only travel restrictions. Refinitiv has well-established remote working capabilities that enable our employees to do their work and support our customers from anywhere in the world.

In addition to this, we are actively reaching out to all of our FX clients to ensure we can understand BCP arrangements and help them achieve practical and appropriate solutions where they are needed.

Together, we will be able to come through this disruption as a community and ensure FX trading continuity.


How to track the market developments:

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